Pistons bow out of Centennial Cup


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The Steinbach Pistons season came down to a single chance.

During their fourth game of the Centennial Cup, needing a goal to win in regulation and clinch a playoff spot, Kirk Mullen received a perfect pass from Dawson Milliken, and looked to one-time the puck past the Battlefords North Stars goaltender, and launch Steinbach into the next round.

Instead, Josh Kotai stretched every inch of his body out, denying Mullen the goal with his blocker, and leaving Steinbach lacking a go-ahead tally. Kian Bell would find that regulation go-ahead goal, but it was for the North Stars, as the Saskatchewan champions locked up their own playoff spot, leaving Steinbach searching for answers.

Steinbach forward Ty Paisley was somewhat contained at the Centennial Cup. The home-grown forward scored twice and added an assist in four games, but easily could have had more, with several of his shots hitting the shafts of opposing goalies. (Cassidy Dankochik The Carillon)

“It was hard to believe,” Pistons head coach Paul Dyck said on the chance.

“I’m sure (Mullen) thought ‘how did that not go in.’ It was a heck of a save.”

It was a moment emblematic of Steinbach’s entire tournament. Although they were able to generate chances, the team could only muster four goals across their three losses at the Centennial Cup.

In the wake of the defeat, Dyck was left lamenting missed opportunities, not only in the game against Battlefords, but all three losses at the tournament, which was hosted in Portage la Prairie.

“The guys felt like we left one on the table,” Dyck said.

“If you look at the four games, we probably out-chanced our opposition, maybe slightly some games, but every game.”

The Pistons finished with a record of 1-2-1, picking up their first win at the Centennial Cup by defeating the Kam River Fighting Walleye in their third game.

Brett Kaiser gives Dominik Wasik a hug after the Pistons were eliminated from the Centennial Cup. Wasik started all four games for Steinbach at the tournament. (Cassidy Dankochik The Carillon)

“The teams are all too good here,” Dyck said.

“You just can’t get away with making three or four mistakes in the game.”

Travis Hensrud was whistled for a five-minute major and a game misconduct for boarding, injuring a North Stars player in their final game. While Steinbach was able to kill off the penalty, the loss of Hensrud loomed large throughout the rest of the game.

“He’s our top goalscorer, he brings a lot of energy, a lot of speed,” Dyck said.

“He’s one of our leaders. That was definitely a big loss.”

After Kotai’s heroics, stopping many chances in the third period including Mullen’s, Kian Bell found the winning goal, flipping a puck past Wasik with three minutes to go, ending Steinbach’s Centennial Cup. Battlefords would add an empty net goal to round out the scoring.

Despite the loss, and the missed opportunities to keep their season going, Dyck said the team shouldn’t be hanging their heads.

Kirk Mullen had a chance to extend Steinbach's Centennial Cup run, but was denied by Battlefords goaltender Josh Kotai. Mullen's shot would have given the Pistons a 2-1 lead in a game they needed to win in regulation to make the playoffs at the national junior A tournament. (Cassidy Dankochik The Carillon)

“It’s an amazing achievement to win your province,” Dyck said.

“At the end of the day one team wins. Nine teams are leaving here unhappy. We’re leaving here a little earlier than we hoped to. We fought hard. I thought our effort was there for 230 of the 240 minutes.”

Quarterfinals at the Centennial Cup will be played on Friday, May 19 with the semi-finals set for Saturday. The finals, which will be broadcast on TSN, are scheduled for 3 p.m. May 21.

The Pistons will host their annual awards night May 18 at the Pat Porter Active Living Centre.

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